Tag: fiction

Book Review: A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry).

A Fine Balance

-Rohinton Mistry.


A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is set in an unnamed city of India during the period of The Emergency (1975 – 1976). This is the first novel by Rohinton Mistry that I have read. It is a long novel and complicated in terms of its plot, so I don’t think I will be able to summarize it here properly. I’ll try my best to explain the story.

The story focuses on four main characters – Dina, Ishwar, and Omprakash, who are uncle and nephew, and Maneck. The four characters come from different social settings. Dina was born in a well to do family, but after her father’s death, her older mother took her in because her mother was unable to provide for her. Dina’s older brother mistreated her regularly treating her like a burden. She rebels against him when she marries Rustom Dalal and they are happy together until Rustom dies in a car crash three years later.


Dina is determined and spirited enough to fight against the odds. This time she doesn’t want to be a burden to anyone and make her own way by starting her tailoring business. Ishwar and Omprakash are the tailors Dina hires to work for since her eyesight isn’t the best. Ishwar and Omprakash have fled their village to escape from caste violence against them. They want a fresh start in the city, and they get jobs as tailors for Dina. Surprisingly, they meet Maneck, a student from an idyllic hill station who rents a room as a boarder at Dina’s house later on. Maneck’s friend disappeared without a trace which still weighs on him and is the reason he moves away from his college campus housing. Their lives converge with each other, and in times of unrest, they form a solid understanding among each other.

A Fine Balance can’t exactly be classified as a political novel, but the Emergency period setting makes in an underlying theme. The characters come from different backgrounds so, the experience of each of them during this time differs from one another. This gave an insight into a period of unrest and crises from four perspectives which make the story is so realistic. Rohinton Mistry’s writing perfectly captures the essence of Indian culture in terms of his descriptions, and it transports you to those places and time. It touches on practices like the sterilizations, mass detentions, caste, and religious discriminations which were carried out during this time regularly.


The story takes a much darker turn and the true extent of the Government’s practices are exposed. It is hard to read through those parts. The freedoms citizens get that we take for granted; the story shows how horrific and anarchic it can get if these rights are taken away. For each character, the effect of the Emergency varies. Ishwar and Omprakash live in slums which are targeted areas for sterilization and labor camps. It is eluded that Maneck’s friend was an activist, and he was detained by the Government because he opposed, and nothing was heard of him again. Dina’s landlord constantly threatens her with eviction using thugs to do his dirty work.


I was unaware of the intensity and the extent of the effects on people’s lives at this time in the history of the country. The story is grounded, and at any point, doesn’t seem forced or unrealistic. The novel is pretty lengthy, but it is engaging throughout and doesn’t feel dragged on. I liked reading this book though, at times, it got too heavy. It is not something I’ll pick up again anytime soon, but it is one of the best books I have read. It is a must-read.

*Get a copy by clicking on the image above.

Book Review: The Princes (Manohar Malgonkar).

The Princes

– Manohar Malgonkar.

The Princes by Manohar Malgonkar is an Indian fiction novel. The story is set in India during the times of British Colonialism, pre and post-independence era. It is about the survival of the Indian Royals during a time of change in the country.

The protagonist of the story is Abhayraj, the prince of Begwad, who is the only heir of his father. The story begins in the post-independent India but the narration shifts to the past, as Abhay reflects on his life. Abhay is an intelligent kid, and for the most part, he is not prejudiced against anyone or anything. He is taught to be a gentleman from a young age and carry himself a certain way. His father is very demanding of him, and at times it takes a toll on him.

Abhay is the narrator of the story. The story focuses on all aspects of his life. His childhood days, the first girlfriend, joining the army during World War II, his father’s struggle, and his mother’s wish to escape her life. Abhay grows up with all the treasures fit for a prince and is never wanting for anything. It is interesting to read about the character at different points in his life and how the social landscape around him affects his conduct.

The story discusses a lot of problematic aspects prevalent in society then. The inferior treatment of individuals based on caste is seen through the treatment of Kanakchand’s character, who later becomes an activist and politician. The treatment of Abhay’s mother by his father is appalling, and in general, the system of having concubines is considered the norm. Throughout the story, Abhay fights not to turn into his father, but on one occasion he does something cruel and accepts the fact that he is his father’s son after all.

The transition from British Raj to becoming an independent state is not exactly smooth. Especially for the royals, their treasures were taken and their power. Many of them tried to save as much as they could by any means possible. Abhay’s father says that he refuses to be the last king of Begwad and see this chapter of history close. I didn’t know much about dissolving the princely states and making them a part of India as a whole. The transition of this wasn’t easy, and there was resistance, but with a wave of democracy, they had to give in.

The writing paints a picture of the life during those times and I realized how much history I was unaware of regarding this period. Abhay, as the narrator, is pretty reliable though he tries to be objective; it doesn’t work all the time, which might be on purpose. This is the only book by Manohar Malgonkar I have read, and his writing style is intriguing and easy; he doesn’t digress too much. The story set a good pace from the beginning, and it continued throughout the novel.

The Princes is different than I expected it to be. It has a good story with the right amount of historical context to keep you interested. Surprisingly for me, it was also emotional in parts, and you can’t help feeling empathetic towards Abhay. I enjoyed reading this book.

*Get a copy from Amazon by clicking on the image above.

Currently Reading (September ’20)

Currently Reading (September ’20)

The books I plan to read this month.

  1. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is set is an unnamed city of India during the time of The Emergency from 1975. There are four main characters – Dina, Ishvar, and his nephew Omprakash, and Maneck. These characters come from varied backgrounds but develop a solid bond during times of turmoil. Only a couple of chapters in but, the story has a good pace. The historical events are in the centerfold of the story which makes it interesting and grounded.

2. 1984 by George Orwell.

1984 by George Orwell is a dystopian fiction novel. It was written in the 1950’s but is still relevant and relatable. The story is set in the future, in the year 1984, where the world is drastically different than before. I started reading this book a few months back but I never finished it. I don’t know why I stopped; I had liked the part I read. So, I am going to start reading it again this month and finish it.

3. The Princes by Manohar Malgonkar.

The Princes by Manohar Malgonkar is a story about Abhay, a young prince of Begwad. The story focuses on the princely states in India during British colonization and how these states steadily declined as India came closer and eventually became independent. The novel begins in the present but, then shifts from past to present. The way it is written makes it easy to keep track of the story. I am enjoying reading this novel.

Book Review: My Last Duchess (Daisy Goodwin).

My Last Duchess

-Daisy Goodwin.


I bought My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin randomly at a book sale last year. The book is a historical fiction/romance which intrigued me. The book is the story of an American heiress Cora Cash who travels to Europe to find a suitable titled match.

Cora Cash is the only daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cash. There are the wealthiest family in America and live in Newport. Cora is romantically interested in a guy named Teddy who is not as rich as her but, Cora doesn’t care. Mrs. Cash is very controlling about Cora’s life which often leads to her questioning all of Cora’s decisions including Teddy. Cora is rejected by him the day before she is supposed to set for Europe. It is actually
Mrs. Cash who wants her daughter to marry someone with a title, hence, she is taking Cora to Europe.

In England, Cora has an accident where she falls from her horse. This is when she meets Ivo; he takes her to his home Lulworth. Ivo is a Duke that fascinates Mrs. Cash and she sees this as an opportunity. A few days later Ivo proposes to Cora soon they get married. After the honeymoon period is over things start going sideways for Cora.

In the beginning, I couldn’t find anything relatable or sympathetic about Cora. She is vain and spoiled, she thinks very highly of herself. The way Ivo and Cora’s love story starts is a little underwhelming. Maybe it was on purpose for the story to progress but when Cora starts questioning whether she knows her husband or not; it is not surprising. Cora has trouble adjusting at Lulworth even after marriage but she tries to take it in stride.

Ivo Maltevers is the Duke of Lulworth. He is often aloof and moody. There is not a lot you find out about him when he is introduced. Ivo inherited Lulworth after his brother’s death and refuses to talk about his past, even if Cora questions him. There is no doubt that he is secretive and feels burdened with the duties that come with the title of Duke of Wareham. Cora’s money is definitely something that he needed which he accepts but his affection for her seems genuine.

The story is a slow burner for the first half of the book but the pace picks up for the second half. This is where my interest peaked and I was interested to know what’s going to happen next. Cora’s character goes through a transformation and she becomes much more likable and real. Ivo leaves for Africa leaving Cora when she is pregnant. She is forced to take control and stand for herself among people who are cold towards her. Ivo has his reasons for his secretive behavior and later, he feels guilty about treating Cora the way he did. The explanation about his past especially about his brother was something I didn’t anticipate.

Daisy Goodwin gives beautiful descriptions of details regarding the decadency of the dresses and houses of the century. I felt that the details, at times, sort of broke the flow of the story. Overall, Cora and Ivo are round characters. Both of them change as the story progresses. The narration of the book is mostly from Cora’s point of view which helped understand her journey properly. The minor characters are colorful and play a part in the overall story.

The start was a little slow but once I got into the story I enjoyed it. The difference between the New World (America) and the Old World is portrayed in a unique and sometimes, funny way. It is an enjoyable and fun read.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Currently Reading (August ’20)

Currently Reading (August ‘20)

These are the books I wish to finish reading this month. Maybe I will get to read more as well if possible. My reading list for this month.

  1. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James is a horror novella. The story is about a young woman who gets a job as a governess for two mysterious kids on an estate which seems to be haunted. I just started reading it and it has a gothic feel to it because of the descriptions. The young girl who is the narrator of the story is unnamed so far. It is an intriguing read.

2. Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau is a book that details the social experiment Thoreau carried by living in a secluded cabin for two years. I am only a couple of chapters in but, it has a philosophical undertone to it. It talks about the author’s experience with nature and living simply, being self-reliant. It is a little difficult to read because there is a lot of symbolism and depth to the writing.

3. My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin.

My Last Duchess by Daisy Goodwin is a story about an American Heiress, Cora Cash, who travels to England with her mother to find an aristocratic match. The world in England is different than what she is accustomed to and when she marries Ivo, an eligible but secretive bachelor, her life changes. I enjoyed reading this book so far though I have trouble relating to Cora’s character which I hope will happen eventually. It seems like a fun read.

4. Morrigan’s Cross by Nora Roberts.

Morrigan’s Cross by Nora Roberts is the first book of the Circle Trilogy. A sorcerer named Hoyt loses his brother in 12th century Ireland to evil forces. He is chosen for a mission by the goddess Morrigan and is told he will be joined by five others to form a team to destroy Lillith. Nora Roberts has a way of blending fantasy elements with the reality that it seems grounded. The story and the characters are interesting. I finished almost seventy pages at one go when I started reading.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book covers above.

Book Review: Lilac Girls (Martha Hall Kelly).

Lilac Girls

– Martha Hall Kelly.

This is a book I have been meaning to read for a while but it wasn’t easy to find. Finally, I read it and it was worth the wait. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is set in the time before, during, and after World War II. The story of this novel is based on a true account of Caroline Ferriday, a socialite in New York who helped the Polish women of Ravensbruck camp. The story of Lilac Girls focuses on three main characters – Kasia, Caroline, and Herta who come from different backgrounds and countries but their lives intersect. Caroline helps the medical experiment survivors from Ravensbruck by bringing them for treatment to America almost a decade after the war is over.

Caroline is an ex-actress who comes from a wealthy family and volunteers at the French Consulate in New York City before the war. Caroline and her family have a strong sense of their French roots and enjoy many traditions of their culture. It is also the reason Caroline works dedicatedly at the consulate. Kasia is an 18-year-old girl living happily with her family and friends in Lublin, Poland until Nazi Germany invades Poland on 1st September in 1939 and her life is turned upside down. Herta is studying medicine in Nazi Germany and dreams of being a surgeon but there are restrictions for women in the medical field under the Reich. She is ambitious and determined from the very beginning and has complete faith in Hitler’s vision for her country.

The story is pretty straightforward in terms of timelines and events. The novel is divided into three parts. The first part gives an insight into the background of the characters and this really helped me understand the motivations and personalities of these women. The second part was difficult to read because the main focus of this is the course of their lives during the war. It is not outwardly described in a gory or violent way but it is more about the emotional reactions which get to you. The third part of the story is Caroline, Kasia, and Herta’s life after the war ends.

The characters in the book are what make this novel unique. Caroline does everything in her power to help French children during the war. She does so at a personal cost at times and even when things turn hopeless she keeps doing what she does because she knows this is the least she can do to help. Kasia is a rebellious girl but she wants to help change the situation in Poland. She starts helping the Polish underground in Lublin with the help of her friend and her crush Pietrik. One day she is followed by a German officer after doing an assignment she begs Pietrik for and is arrested. Kasia’s mother and sister Zuzzana, Pietrik, and his sister Luiza who have come to collect the envelope from Kasia are all arrested along with her.

Ravensbruck is where Kasia ends up with her sister and mother, a labor camp in Germany for women. I didn’t know much about this camp and the medical experiments conducted there until I read this book. These women stick together, helping each other stay safe that too at a personal cost. It’s heartwarming to see them help each other this way in a situation where one wrong move meant your death. The experiments were inhumane and the way is written makes us understand the gravity of it. It is at the camp that Kasia’s mother, Halina, is taken under Herta’s wing as a nurse and where Halina dies. This is the only time Herta shows some emotion. Herta is not a fictional character and is based on a camp doctor in Ravensbruck. She believes in what she is doing and it seems like she doesn’t care but somewhere deep down she feels a little remorse for her actions. Most of the time though she is detached and cold focusing only on her medical research with no thought of the human cost.

Caroline has a personal connection to France during the war, a married actor she falls in love with named Paul who is also taken to a camp when France is invaded but survives. Kasia comes back with her sister to Lublin where their father still lives and has trouble adjusting to normal life. She finds Pietrik and he is having a hard time too but Kasia is trying to forget but her guilt about her mother makes her angrier and angrier. Pietrik and Kasia get married and have a daughter who is named Halina after her mother but Kasia doesn’t want her to be named Halina. She snaps at everyone about the tiniest things but slowly realizes she needs to let go. With Caroline’s insistence, Kasia goes to Germany to confront Herta who was released early from prison. Once she confronts Herta and finds out what happened to her mother at the camp that she is finally able to move on with her life and leave all the darkness behind.

Martha Hall Kelly has been able to give a lot of heart to the story through her characters. Kasia and her family are the fictional characters but the story revolves around them in a way and, they are instrumental in telling the story of those Polish women who suffered at Ravensbruck during the war and treated unjustly after the war. It is a beautiful and inspiring story yet it is so sad and heartbreaking.

*Get a copy by clicking on the book cover above.

Currently Reading (July ’20).

My reading list for this month.

  1. Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling.

I don’t usually read non-fiction books but this book was a gift. It is been sitting on my shelf for years. I recently watched The Mindy Project television series and I liked it so I decided that now I will read this book. It is kind of like a collection of humorous essays written by Mindy Kaling. I am only a couple of chapters in but it is a fun read. It is relatable, insightful, and witty.

2. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly is inspired by a true story during World War II. Three women Caroline Ferriday, Kasia Kuzmerick, and Herta Oberheuser come from different worlds until World War II begins with the invasion of Poland and their paths cross with each other. I haven’t read beyond the first chapter but historical novels always intrigue me and this one was no different. I look forward to reading this book.

3. The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst.

The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst is a love story between Alexa and Nicholas. Alexa and Nicholas have known each other for years because Maggie is Alexa’s best friend and Nicholas’s sister. Alexa is in a tough financial situation so when Nicholas makes his proposal to her. They get married only in name for Nicholas to be able to inherit his father’s corporation. The story can be predictable in a way but the element of fantasy and unique characters is enough to hook you on the book.

*Get a copy by clicking on the images above.

Book Review: If You Stay (Beautifully Broken #1)

If You Stay (Beautifully Broken #1)

–   Courtney Cole

This is the first book written by Courtney Cole that I have read.  I found the premise of the book and the title interesting when I added it to my reading list. If You Stay by Courtney Cole is the first novel of the Beautifully Broken Series.

The story focuses on two characters Pax Tate and Mila Hill. Both are different from each other and it is opposites attract situation. Pax is an asshole; he knows it and admits it himself. He is a trust fund kid and there is an element of mystery about his past. Mila is a nice and sweet girl who owns a small shop in town. Their first meeting is less than ideal. Mila finds Pax in his car overdosed on drugs and pills late one night and saves his life.

The story unfolds naturally and doesn’t seem forced at any point. Pax is fascinated by Mila after she comes to check on him in the hospital where he is recovering from the overdose. Pax often refers to Mila as red. He thinks of her as Red Riding Hood and of himself as the Big Bad Wolf. Pax associates all things good about people to Mila and her sweetness draws him in. Mila is understandably cautious about Pax because of the way she first saw him but she is is just as intrigued by him as he is by her.

There are subtle hints from the start about Pax’s past but not much is given away. Mila’s parents have died a few years ago, leaving her and her older sister Maddy alone. She carries baggage from her parents’ death and their toxic relationship with each other. Pax has lost his mother at a young age, he was uprooted from the environment he knew and his dad has pretty much neglected him since his mom’s death.

Pax is self-reflective and is aware that he has problems, he feels empty and he doesn’t know why. He has turned to drugs to feel numb; he has been taking sleeping pills for as long as he can remember. The accidental overdose is a wakeup call for me and then onwards he tries hard to not repeat the same mistakes. I liked the fact that Pax didn’t decide to change himself for Mila but because he realized it wasn’t healthy. Mila reminds him constantly to make changes for himself, not for her sake. They have a very cute relationship and seem right for each other.

The flashback to the circumstances of Pax’s mother’s death was shocking and heartbreaking. A lot of problems Pax has can be traced back to this event which he has somehow blocked from his memory. You can’t help but feel bad for the little kid who went through such a horrific tragedy at the age of 6. It is in a way understandable that Pax spirals after finding out what actually happened and finally knowing why he felt empty.

It was a straightforward love story but it had complex characters which you can’t help but root for. I liked the descriptions of this town on Lake Michigan; it had a community feel to it. The pace of the story doesn’t drop from start to finish which is always a plus. Once I started reading this book, I finished it almost in a day. I enjoyed reading this book.

*Click on the image above to get your own copy from Amazon.

Currently Reading (June ’20)

My reading list for the month.

  1. If You Stay by Courtney Cole.

If You Stay is a story of Pax and Mila. Both of them come from different backgrounds; Pax drowns himself in drugs and women while Mila is down to earth and sweet. I am a couple of chapters in as of now and it is intriguing. There is an element of mystery surrounding the characters’ past especially Pax which I am super curious to find out.

2. Worth the Risk by Jamie Beck.

Worth the Risk is the third book of the St. James series. I read the other two books a while back and I wanted to read Jackson’s story. This book focuses on Jackson St. James when he decides to go to Vermont so he could prioritize his sobriety. His landlady is sweet young mother Gabby who Jackson finds alluring. Gabby and Jackson both seem to have different issues about their past yet they seem perfect for each other.  

  1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.

I have been meaning to read A Tale of Two Cities for years but some reason I always stop after the first chapter. This time I have picked it up again and finished the second chapter so that is a promising sign. Set during the French Revolution, this book parallels the story between two cities London and Paris. It being a historical novel is a huge draw for me.

Book Review: Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro).

Never Let Me Go

– Kazuo Ishiguro.

This book has been sitting on my shelf for years. It’s the dystopian element of the novel that intrigued me as well as worried me; I need to be in a certain mindset for them. Finally, I read it this month and I was taken by surprise. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a science fiction/dystopian novel which focuses on three friends Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth.

The story of Never Let Me Go is divided into three parts as it focuses on different periods of the characters’ lives. Kathy is the narrator of the story and everything that unfolds is from her perspective. The first part begins when Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth are young kids’ not even teenagers yet at a boarding school called Hailsham. Apart from the first chapter where it seems something might be off about the school, it is pretty idyllic. There are a lot of secretive things happening at Hailsham which all the kids notice but they don’t know why it is the way it is.


In the second part of the story, the three friends have left the school at 16 and now are living at Cottages where they start to really understand about their lives. It is then revealed that all the kids at Hailsham are actually clones, genetically engineered to be organ donors. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth spend time reminiscing about Hailsham while trying to accept their reality. Tommy and Ruth are in a romantic relationship now. Kathy notices the changes in Ruth’s behavior towards her and Tommy but she doesn’t say anything to her directly. Ruth has befriended an older couple there who tell her that if the clones are truly in love and can prove it, they can defer. By the end of this part, Ruth has successfully driven a wedge between Tommy and Kathy. It is after this Kathy signs up to be a carer.


In the third part, Kathy is now working as a carer, Ruth and Tommy have made their first donations. Kathy meets an old classmate from Hailsham who tells her about Ruth and her failing health after the donation. Kathy decides to become her carer. It is Ruth’s idea to go to the lake and she also insists and Tommy joining them. Ruth regrets keeping Tommy and Kathy apart and urges them to defer together. After Ruth’s death, Kathy and Tommy are romantically involved and she is also Tommy’s carer.


The main part of the story that I really liked were the characters. Kathy is empathetic which makes her a good carer; she is also more accepting of her fate. Even at a young age, she notices slight changes in the behavior of the guardians. Ruth can be superficial and difficult at times. She has fantasies and dreams which don’t match her reality and understandably, she lashes out. In the end, though she accepts she kept Tommy and Kathy away from each other and wants them to try and defer. Tommy is sensitive and introspective. As a kid, he is short-tempered but as he becomes older he is calm and thoughtful.


The book is disturbing in a way because you know they are clones and they have been brought up for a purpose but they are also human. Their emotions and reactions are real. They behave like regular kids and teenagers but deep down they know that they are not ‘normal’. They are human in all the ways that it counts but their life has a purpose and that has to be fulfilled. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth want to see if they can change their fate; Ruth dies without knowing the truth about their existence which Kathy and Tommy learn towards the end.


The novel is heartbreaking and disturbing. The way it is written and narrated just takes the story to another level. The themes of expectation versus reality, friendships and relationships, life and death, and humanity are beautifully explored in this novel. This novel put me in a bit of a daze; I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished. It is a must-read.

*Click on the image above to get a copy.